French photographer and YouTuber Mathieu Stern is known for his look at rare, vintage glass, but his latest lens might just top it all. While on Iceland’s famous “iceberg beach,” Stern fulfilled his dream of shooting photos and videos with a lens made of ice.
“Shooting photos using an ice lens [has been] my dream for almost 2 years. After some research I saw that almost no one ever tried this crazy idea, mainly because it’s hard as hell to find pure ice, and even harder to get a clear image,” says Stern in the video’s description. “So I had the choice to give up on my idea because it was too hard, or to just level up in the craziness […] If it’s hard to find pure ice in my city, maybe I should go where I could find some 10 000 year old pure ice — Iceland’s famous iceberg beach.”
The night before Stern and his friends were supposed to go to the beach, a “huge” storm went through and took all of the icebergs away from shore. So, they waited a few days and eventually went back three days later at 5am in the morning to get a chunk from one of the icebergs that had made its way to shore.
Stern says it took nearly six hours to create a single working ice lens, after four of them had broken inside of the housing. Every iteration, each of which took 45 minutes to make, was done so with the help of a Japanese cocktail ice ball maker, which Stern had hacked to form the piece of iceberg into a half-sphere.
The housing of the lens he created was 3D-printed, which held the continuously-melting piece of ice in place in front of Stern’s camera. As you could imagine, shooting with the lens was less than ideal. The lens lasted only a minute or so after it was completed and trying to focus as it was melting proved to be a challenge.
According to Stern, no cameras were harmed in the making of the video. As to whether or not he was happy with the result, Stern says “This project is a scientific, artistic and poetic project — I never imagined the result would look like the photos that comes from an ultra modern lens, but I was amazed by the strange beauty of the images I made with the first ever 10,000 year old lens.”
You can read Stern’s detailed account on the creation of the lens and see more of his work on his website.